Rapala Fishing: Pro Series dials back in comparison to other games of the same format, instead opting for a more relaxed fun-filled session across the small portion of lakes on offer. The aim of the game is as straight forward as it is simplistic, being that you simply need to work your way through a short career mode until you make it as a sponsored Rapala Pro fisherman. The lakes that you can take to include the likes of Lake Minnetonka, but it really doesn’t matter which body of water you’re situated at seeing as each scenario begins and ends exactly the same. Normally for a game like this I would be more than happy to forgive that but if there’s one thing I’ve taken away from Rapala Fishing: Pro Series, it’s that it’s too basic, too simple and far too rough around the edges.
You begin with a small dollop of cash which is something you must build upon and learn to expand as you move through the campaign. Starting out in your boat you’re given complete freedom to go where you want (when you want) as you seek out a decent place to drop your line and catch up to 17-species of different fish. You’re given some degree of aid via the fish-locator, a tool that helps to determine the depth of the water and whether or not it’s populated. Other helpful tips revolve around watching for surface breaks in the water, or keeping a keen eye out for suicidal attention grabbing fish that will jump out of the water for a quick air grab. You’re able to equip and unlock various pieces of equipment to make lake-life a bit easier ranging from 100s of authentic lures and tool combinations, but despite being an easy game on the face of it all, there’s a thick blanket layer of frustration sitting in wait.
Gameplay will have you seeking out an ideal spot to capture some fish and then sees you casting your chosen lure into the water whilst utilising a gauge that will determine how hard you throw the line. You’ll then be required to jiggle your lure in an attempt to fully attract whatever fish is gazing nearby. Once you get a bite on the line you have about as much time as a flash of lightning to hook the fish and obtain it. This ladies and gentlemen is where the frustrating moments of the game makes an appearance. There’s no chance in hell that anyone without pinpoint accurate precision will likely have any fun or sense of reward for pulling off a hook, simply due to how rapid on the command you have to be. It removes any sense of tactical play and practically annuls the work you’ve put in so far by replacing strategy with button mashing.
It’s irritating to say the least and far from any form of fun that I’ve encountered in games of this type before. The concept of getting to your event location is bonkers too, seeing as you’ll be given a strict time limit to get in on the action without suffering a penalty. There’s a grand total of six events on offer despite the fact that the game boasts “world-class tournaments” in its description, and when you weigh this up with the issue that each event lasts 20 minutes max, you’ll understand my concern for the price tag that comes with. You can indeed enjoy daily challenges via the leaderboard, but I highly doubt these will become and remain populated for a great length of time. If you’re going to create a game that relies on replay value for longevity, make sure it’s compelling enough to hook a sizeable following rather than assume that players will flock to the competition for the sake of it being there.
Mercifully actually fighting a hooked fish is straight forward enough and somewhat satisfying when you’re not contending with the back-end of a timer. Once you have a fish on your line and you’ve hooked it, all you need to do is use the analog to keep the fish in an on-screen box and reel it in. Standard practice sees you carefully monitoring your line tension to ensure that it doesn’t snap, but once you’re at this stage in the game (across fish of all sizes) it’s typically in the bag so long as you pay attention to the prompts. That being said this is hardly an in-depth system, in fact fishing in Final Fantasy XV houses more tactic, and that’s one of the most simplistic aspects to that game. If you’re looking for something more simulation based, Rapala Fishing: Pro Series is not where you want to be. The game costs £15.99 / $19.99 which is far too steep for what’s on offer in my opinion.
It certainly doesn’t help that the game looks bland and basic. You would have thought that for an experience that doesn’t dish up a huge portion of different fish types or character models, that Rapala Fishing: Pro Series would have least spared some effort for the visual front. Sadly that’s not the case. Everything from the character and fish animations to the movement of the water is dull and uninteresting. There’s some nice background design when you’re in the middle of a lake looking out at the sights, but that’s not enough to save this from itself. The game looks just like a cheap arcade experience that you would witness at a seaside attraction or amusement park, which really doesn’t do any favours in the presence of everything else that the game falls flat on.
Rapala Fishing: Pro Series is dull, uninteresting, repetitive and bland. Irrespective of the fact that the game costs £15.99 / $19.99, there’s nowhere near enough content or care to attention to keep you coming back for one more catch. The campaign is far too short and the daily challenges lack any meaningful structure or incentive for repeat sessions. Those of you that enjoy arcade fishing may be able to pull more from this than I could, and despite the small fleeting moments of satisfaction I enjoyed when reeling in a hooked fish, it doesn’t offset the issues within. If you’re looking for a simulation based fishing game, this isn’t it, and I found more fun fishing in the side content of another game than I did here, make of that what you will. There’s certainly some good times to be had, that I wont deny, but much of it will be fleeting.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.